Does advocacy work? Here’s just a few of our recent success stories:
35 Christians Released from Prison in Saudi Arabia
On December 15th, 2011, 35 men and women were arrested at a private prayer service in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. All 35 were Christians and Ethiopian citizens. During their interrogation, some of the men were physically beaten and the women were forced to undergo strip searches. Local authorities openly accused them of being “unbelievers” and friends of American and Israel. ICC broke the news a few days later and in January held a conference call with the U.S. State Department, urging the U.S. to take action on the case.
After four months and two ICC sponsored protests outside of the Saudi embassy in D.C., we took an underground pastor who was familiar with the prisoners to Capitol Hill and held twenty-four meetings with Congressional offices in the House and Senate. This resulted in calls directly from our nations leaders to the Saudi ambassador as well as Saudi officials being called to House offices to explain the arrest in person. We soon heard from our sources in Jeddah that orders had “come from above” for the release of the prisoners, who had never been officially charged with any crime.
It appears that local authorities were angered by the order to release the prisoners and delayed as long as possible, but finally, in early August, 2012, all 35 prisoners were released and sent back to Ethiopia after almost 8 months of detention.They reported that pressure from the outside had been instrumental in ending their stay in a Saudi jail.
Justice for Christians in Ethiopia
In the first week of March, 2011, Muslim militants killed one Christian, burned down 69 churches and several Christian homes in Asendabo, Ethiopia. More than 10,000 were displaced in the violence due to the severe losses and fear of continued attacks. ICC was the first organization to break the news about the attacks and draw international attention to the impunity of perpetrators after the violence took place. ICC collected over 1,100 signatures from 50 nations worldwide, and worked with 14 offices of US federal representatives, commissions, and the State Department calling for known perpetrators to be judged in Ethiopian courts. This June, ICC was the first to learn that 579 Ethiopians were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 3 months to 18 years for taking part in the violence. An additional 107 individuals are accused of terrorism and the public prosecutors have brought charges against them in federal court. Eight individuals suspected to be among the masterminds of the violence are still at large, but Ethiopian authorities are searching for them.
Christians Released from Prison in Ethiopia
In March, 2011, ICC used government contacts to advocate on behalf of a Christian brother imprisoned in Ethiopia. After a few weeks he was released and cited ICC advocacy efforts as the reason for the release.
Then, in October, 2011, ICC discovered that three Ethiopian Christians had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel to Muslims. An employee of ICC contacted the prison officials responsible for the arrests and warned them that their detention of the Christian men for preaching was not only illegal, but that it had caught the attention of the outside world. Within days all three Christians were released from prison.
Nigerian Advocacy Efforts Picked up in Nigerian Press
We brought a church leader from Nigeria to the US to highlight the tragic slaughter of Christians that is happening in that country. ICC organized two weeks of meetings with Senators, Congressmen, State Department officials, NGO’s, and local churches. These meetings resulted in two Congressional inquiries to the Nigerian legislature expressing alarm at the situation. The Nigerian press picked up on this and added further to ongoing actions enforcing justice for those who have failed to protect the hundreds of Christian victims.
Plight of Moroccan Christians Highlighted for First Time
In 2010, we brought a high-profile expelled Moroccan to the US to highlight the recent deportations of Christians and the underlying persecution of Moroccan Christians. He met with Congressmen who are leading an effort to hold the government of Morocco accountable for persecution. Because of his visit the plight of local Moroccan Christian’s was highlighted for the first time in an official hearing and he was able to submit testimony for the Congressional Record.
In June, 2010, ICC brought attention for the first time to the case of Jamaa Ait Bakrim, a Moroccan Christian who has been in prison for his faith since 2005. This has led to other organizations picking up the story; attention and pressure continue to build for his release.
Eight Months of Work Pay Off Imprisoned Afghan Believer Freed
Said Musa, a convert to Christianity, was imprisoned in Afghanistan in May of 2010. Within weeks, ICC visited Afghanistan to obtain an overview of the case and work on a strategy to get him released. Since then, we have been working steadily behind the scenes on his case with Senators, Congressional Representatives, the State Deptartment, and the press.
One of our early successes was to get him moved to a safer prison after we received a smuggled letter from him detailing his physical and sexual abuse. Upon receipt of the letter, we immediately met with a government agency to alert them to the case. We told them we would go public with the case unless he was moved to a safer cell. Since this kind of case is highly inflammatory, they didn’t want it going public.
The day after our meeting, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul immediately sent representatives to meet with Said in prison to ascertain his status. Three days after the meeting, he was moved to a safer cell away from Taliban prisoners. Following that initial meeting, we made numerous visits and calls to lawmakers and government officials to move the case forward.
Over the course of several months, ICC’s president and regional manager gave countless interviews to the highest profile newsmakers, including Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Christianity Today, World Magazine, the AP, and the Washington Post, to name a few. All the hard work paid off in late February when we received news that he had been released. We had the honor to be the first to tell the world that he was free and in safety.
ICC Petitions Around the World
ICC petitions have been translated into Arabic and French, picked up by human rights organizations, and have supporters from around the world including many persecuted countries.